For the first time in nearly two decades, members of the Nebraska’s unicameral legislature will have an opportunity to debate a bill that would repeal the state’s death penalty and replace it with a sentence of life without parole and an order of restitution. Members of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee unanimously advanced the bill, noting that their colleagues in the full senate should have a chance to debate the measure. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Ernie Chambers, introduced a similar measure in 1979 that won approval by the legislature, but was vetoed by then-Governor Charles Thorne.

During the Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the bill, those testifying noted that capital punishment is more expensive than sentences of life without parole and urged passage of the measure because Nebraska’s current death penalty does not adequately address the potential for racial bias and wrongful convictions in capital cases. University of Colorado sociology professor Michael Radelet testified that capital punishment does not deter murder and that public support for the death penalty is waning. Former Senator Loran Schmit told the committee that he was an outspoken supporter of the death penalty for many years before he was a member of the Legislature. He said he changed his mind when he learned of the disparities in sentencing for those who commit murder. Schmit added, “I also thought the death penalty would be a deterrent. I no longer believe that.”

(Lincoln Star Journal, February 1, 2007). See Recent Legislative Activity and Life Without Parole.